Cruise ships are essentially floating resorts, so it’s absolutely correct that you should expect the same variety and quality of dining that you would get in a five-star resort on land. And with such a captive audience, often the choice is even greater, with fine dining restaurants, informal buffets and speciality ice cream parlours, American-style steakhouses and seafood shacks making an appearance across many cruise ships. Dining on board cruise ships has changed dramatically in recent years; if you still like the sound of allotted dining times and a table of friends to join every evening you can still find that on board the traditional cruise lines like Cunard and Holland America, but there are cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Carnival aiming to shake up traditions and offer a huge array of choices. Here are our seven reasons why foodies will love the food on board:
1. Dining is (mostly) all included in the price
Cruises are full-board. This means that breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the price, and that often goes for room service and snacks, too. What it doesn’t mean is that every restaurant is free. More often than not there will be at least one speciality restaurant that charges a supplement because it offers an extra special experience, or has an enviable location on the ship. But fear not: the free dining options are plentiful and you can eat for free for your whole cruise if you choose to.
2. Celebrity chefs love cruises
Famous celebrity chefs just can’t get enough of cruises. Jamie Oliver on Royal Caribbean. Marco Pierre White, Atul Kochhar and James Martin on P&O. Todd English on Cunard. Arnaud Lallement on Disney. Guy Fireri on Carnival. And an exceptional Nobu restaurant by Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa can be found on Crystal Cruises. Don’t expect the celebrity chefs to be there at sea with you, cooking your dishes, although they do make appearances on selected cruises. As well as celebrity-endorsed restaurants you’ll also find a number of your favourite brands on board, such as Starbucks on Royal Caribbean.
3. The quality is exceptional
Just because a ship might be catering for several thousand passengers doesn’t mean a compromise on the quality of the food. It’s not unusual to dine on fillet steak and lobster tails in the main dining room, included in the price of your holiday. The fine dining restaurants, such as the Grills on board Cunard ships, are renowned for their incredible menus offering amazing variety and exquisite presentation. On board the luxury cruise liners, such as Seabourn and Azamara, you’ll find special evenings included alongside your main dining plan.
4. The choice is mind-boggling
On some of the mega liners, you can pretty much find any food you want, at almost any time of day. From a casual slice of pizza by the pool to a fine dining experience for true foodies, the choice on the larger cruise ships covers a full spectrum of tastes. The on board buffet, often the most casual option, can feature cuisine from around the world, sometimes freshly prepared at cooking stations. The huge variety of food also means keeping fussy-eaters happy too, just another reason why cruise holidays are appealing to more and more families. Many cruise ships will tailor the cuisine offered on board to the destination you’re travelling through, so you could have sashimi in Sapporo or vongole in Venice – imagine the flavours you’ll discover.
5. You can eat when you want
Traditionally, cruise lines have imposed set dining times to help handle the large volume of guests that pass through the restaurant doors. And while this is still an option on some ships, there are now alternatives for those who want more flexibility in choosing the time they eat. Expect to find an open-all-hours buffet as well as reservation-only restaurants that operate as their land-based counterparts.
6. The food hygiene standards are impeccable
Keeping passengers healthy is always a top priority on cruise ships. That means that incredibly stringent processes are in place to ensure the highest food hygiene standards. Different foods, from ice cream to meats, are stored separately at their absolute optimum temperatures. Storage, preparation and cooking are all done in separate kitchens to prevent cross-contamination. Diligence extends to passengers too, with hand sanitisers dotted everywhere throughout the ship, particularly around food outlets and restaurants.
7. There’s no dining with strangers (if you don’t want to)
Cruise lines are moving away from putting large groups of passengers together to eat. Sometimes it’s still done that way and it’s something that many passengers enjoy as it’s an opportunity to meet new people from around the world and even make lifelong friends. But now it’s possible get a table for two, or dine with who you choose to, just as you would at home.
To speak to a cruise expert, call 971 4 389 8801 or visit www.imaginecruising.ae for more inspiration.